One More About the Four-Leggers

Well. It has been a big week for pets here in Stimeyland. Some good, some bad. I figured I’d wrap some stuff up here before I wander off to other topics, because much as I would love to talk about all gerbils all the time, I imagine some of you are not as excited about the whole thing as I am.

First though, Cassidy. Thank you all so much for your nice comments and emails and and messages. Every single one of them meant a great deal to me and my family. Saturday went as well as could be expected, but it was still terrible. Of course.

The vet and vet tech made an imprint of her paw after they took her away and the vet tech brought it back to our house. It was such a tremendous act of kindness.

So beautiful.

So beautiful.

I keep expecting to see her wandering around or stealing food off of our table. It’s also hard to break habits like closing doors to rooms that I don’t want her in or hiding trash cans from her. It’s definitely quieter around here without the constant jingling of her collar tags.

That dog. She was such a problem. But so good.

The kids are doing well. We’re talking about her and making sure they know they’re allowed to be sad.

I wrote about her for White Knuckle Parenting this week. I included many of the book suggestions you gave me, but couldn’t include them all. Thank you for all of them regardless.

*****

So. How are the gerblets doing?

There are still five of them. Today their ears popped open. It hadn’t even occurred to me that they didn’t have ears until suddenly they had them.

I’m supposed to start handling them in the next few days so they get used to people. I imagine that Jetpack and Mouse will have some menacing glares to give me when I pick up their babies.

I’m basing this prediction on Jetpack’s reaction to my taking a photo of the babies from the outside of the tank.

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All five of them, eared and naked.

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Jetpack: “Kindly back the fuck off, ma’am.”

You may notice that the gerbil babies are different colors now. I can’t tell if they have very short fur buzz cuts or if their skin is changing colors. Regardless, I’m hopeful that this means I won’t end up with five identical off-white gerbils, in which case I would just name them all George Foreman and be done with it.

This whole baby thing is honestly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever watched—and listened to. They squeak all of the time. Frankly, the only negative about the whole thing is the stress of the possibility of 8500 more baby gerbils. Otherwise, watching their development is fantastic. My kids are super into it as well.

Quinn had a friend over this afternoon and when his mom came to pick him up, Quinn handed her a photo of the baby gerbils to take home. If he knew what cigars were, he’d be handing them out too.

Now. I know everyone is VERY concerned about the gender of the gerbils. I’m happy to report that I think I’ve figured out which gerbil is the mom.

Ooooh…the suspense.

I think Jetpack is the mom. I know. A twist! No one saw that coming. Today all seven of them were packed into this tiny hut they have and Mouse was on the bottom of the gerbil pile on his stomach. Jetpack was on top of him on her side and it looked like a baby was nursing from her.

I turned a flashlight on them and everything to try to be sure.

With the tangle of limbs and the darkness and the tiny hut opening combined with the nearly identical fur coverings and the fact that no faces were visible, it was still hard to tell who was who and what was happening, so I’m only about 95% sure that Jetpack is the mom. But really, if I’m wrong, what’s the worst that could happen?

Oh, right.

8500 gerblets.

Celebrating the Doodle

I am so sorry to do this to you all, but I have to take a sharp left turn off of gerbil babies (whom I am henceforth referring to as Gerblets—like giblets, but alive).

So, you know about Cassidy. (Also known as “The Doodle.”)

She is our awesome dog.

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Cassidy is 13 years old and has been having health problems for a while. She has on and off liver and kidney issues and has chronic joint issues as well as incontinence and lots of itchiness. She seems confused a lot of the time. Sometimes I have to carry her up and down stairs. She takes a lot of medicine.

We’ve known for a while that she didn’t have a long time, but she has deteriorated a lot over the past couple of weeks. Just this evening, she took a nose dive. She is hunched and limping and breathing really hard.

Saturday (tomorrow) afternoon the vet is coming to put her to sleep.

I know it’s the right thing to do. I know it. But tomorrow is going to be horrible. We are going to miss her a lot.

The kids are ready—as ready as they can be. We’ve been talking about her being sick for a while. When we saw how quickly she was starting to not feel well, we started preparing them for this happening. And now we’ve told them that tomorrow afternoon they’re going to go over to a friend’s house and the vet is going to come to our house and help Cassidy die.

Quinn decided that he wanted to have a party for Cassidy today. So we had a party to celebrate her. We gave her a can of dog food (and we ate cake and bone-shaped graham crackers), took photos with her, and we made her a poster to show her how much we love her.

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We’re going to miss her. I have spent 13 years with her following me around virtually all day, every day. The house is going to be very different without her.

And to All a Good Night…

Christmas Eve can be touch or go. You know, you have kids who are really jacked up and looking forward to Christmas and Christmas Eve promises excitement, but it’s not quite the main event, so there is disappointment built in, not to mention two or three or…six hours of yelling things like “IF YOU DON’T GO TO SLEEP RIGHT NOW, YOU WILL KILL SANTA WITH YOUR BAD BEHAVIOR! SANTA WILL NEVER COME NOW! ARE YOU HAPPY? ARE YOU FUCKING HAPPY?”

Although that last little bit usually only happens in parents’ heads.

This year for Team Stimey though, shit came together and we had such a fantastic day.

We started by heading out to IHOP because we drove past there last week and Jack was all, “I wanna go to IHOOOOOPPPP!” and I figured that it would kill some Christmas Eve morning time, so why don’t we go then?

Team Stimey at IHOP

They put us in a back corner. It was a good decision on their part.

My kids were in enormously good form what with Sam asking the waitress for her phone number, Quinn having many questions about menu items, and Jack, well, Jack was pretty chill actually. I’m not even going to discuss Alex’s behavior. We spent longer eating breakfast than we have in a long time. Usually restaurant meals are a pretty quick affair for us, on the assumption that shorter means less chance of a freakout, but everybody was happy to just sit and eat today. It was great.

I mean, we even started breakfast with hot chocolate that came topped with whipped cream and chocolate chips, so it’s not like we even made an effort to keep them from getting hepped up on sugar or anything. Quinn doesn’t like whipped cream, so his hot chocolate was plain, but the waitress brought him chocolate chips anyway.

Quinn and chocolate chips

This is when the waitress cemented her giant tip.

After IHOP, it was off to the dry cleaner, as you do on Christmas Eve.

We spent the next couple of hours at home teetering dangerously on Too Much Togetherness when a goddamn Christmas miracle happened. It started to snow.

Sam in snow

It took him a surprisingly long time to catch a snowflake in his mouth.

It turns out that my children are unable to walk into my backyard without Nerf battlegear, so they suited up and headed out.

Jack in battle gear

Our own version of Bad Piggies.

They were so happy that even Alex and I went out with them and ran around.

Quinn in snow

And all was right with the world.

It didn’t snow a lot and it didn’t stick to the ground, but it got Team Stimey out of the house and happy. You can see falling snow in the above photos is you squint reeeallly hard, but it’s easier to see on a dark canvas.

Cassidy in snow

This is why we only have dark-furred dogs.

We futzed around for a while, watched a movie together, played some video games, and had our traditional steak and spinach Christmas Eve dinner.

Everyone gets to open a gift on Christmas Eve and Jack had been asking all day to do so. Team Stimey Junior even had a bonus Christmas Eve gift because my mom sent them one.

Look at them working together to unwrap that gift. They are so motherfucking civilized.

Look at them working together to unwrap that gift. They are so motherfucking civilized.

The gift was Just Dance for the Wii. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Jack dance to Gangnam Style, by the way. I wish I’d gotten THAT on film.

Sam had a gift for Alex and I too and he was super insistent that we open it on Christmas Eve, so we decided that was okay. The gift was cool, but the best part was the stack of cards that came with it. Seriously, a stack. Some of those cards contained alliteration, like this: “Marvelous mom manages maidenhood majestically moving minds.”

Then, oh my God, then he had Alex and I follow him to the computer where he presented us with the Power Point presentation he had created about us. I have literally never gotten a better gift. Here are two of the slides. Judge for yourself.

Mice of Power!

“Mom has loved mice, gerbils, and guinea pigs forever practically. Rodents Rock!”

Phish

“Dad has loved the band Phish for a long time. #1 band baby!”

I have no idea where he got all those photos or when he put this thing together, but even Alex almost started crying because it was so damn sweet.

We had a few other traditions to get to, but Quinn had to squeeze in some letter writing first.

Quinn has been planning this note for a looong time.

Quinn has been planning this note for a looong time.

"To: Santa, Does Rudolf's nose really flash? Pleas wrigt yes or no under with the pen. from Quinn."

“To: Santa, Does Rudolf’s nose really flash? Pleas wrigt yes or no under with the pen. from Quinn.”

What do you think, internets? Does Rudolph’s nose really flash?

The last hour or so of Christmas Eve before bedtime is very busy in Stimeyland. We have to mix oatmeal and glitter to make the reindeer dust.

Reindeer dust, to attract and feed reindeer.

The glitter attracts the reindeer and the oatmeal gives them something to snack on while Santa fills stockings.

There was a lot of complaining about cold feet on the porch. So they all went to get shoes while I stood on the cold lawn waiting.

You can use edible sprinkles instead of glitter, but it doesn't photograph as well.

You can use edible sprinkles instead of glitter, but it doesn’t photograph as well.

I let Quinn choose how many cookies to leave out for Santa, a task he took VERY seriously.

Evidently cookie placement is VERY important.

Evidently cookie placement is crucial.

Then it was off to the living room for the annual reading of The Night Before Christmas.

Jack had little smart ass comments for each line, Quinn scoured each page looking for pictures of cats, and Sam pretended to play the flute. Alex gamely carried on with the story.

Jack had little smart ass comments for each line, Quinn scoured each page looking for pictures of cats, and Sam pretended to play the flute. Alex gamely carried on with the story.

We put the kiddos to bed and I gave the gerbils their Christmas seed cube and then we began to wait for them to fall asleep.

Merry Christmas, Gerbils of Power!

Merry Christmas, Gerbils of Power!

I’m sitting here waiting for Quinn to fall asleep. That poor kid. He wants to fall asleep so desperately, but he can’t. He’s pretty sad about it.

So. I just wrote THAT ^^^^ and then Quinn came out of his room SOBBING. He was afraid he would never fall asleep and Santa wouldn’t come and oh dear lord, I have never seen anyone quite so sad in my life. It took me an HOUR to get him to sleep. Please, Quinn, don’t wake up again.

Now I’m off to be Santa, if I can wrest my elves away from the Transformers show they’re watching on TV.

This photo is only here because I didn't post one of our tree yet and my mom always wants to see one.

This photo is only here because I didn’t post one of our tree yet and my mom always wants to see one. Guess who decorated it?

I hope you had a really merry Christmas Eve and that your kids fall asleep quickly!

Let’s Not Have a Party—Let’s Have a Melee!

Imagine you got really lazy about planning your oldest son’s 11th birthday party and two weeks before the date, you realized that you had to GET ON THAT, STAT?! I imagine that being the smart person that you are, you would probably decide to invite a class of 26 students into your home in mid-October—a day that could be gorgeous or could be rainy—and you would plan activities like dodgeball, because WHAT COULD GO WRONG WITH THAT?

Well, YOU might not do that, but clearly *I* would.

I bought a bunch of small rubber balls and Alex picked the dog up and put her away so she wouldn’t steal all the Oreos and that’s what we did.

Cassidy was mightily put out.

The dog was all, “But I WANT Oreos!”

I would like to report that only one head injury was sustained.

That didn’t happen during dodgeball though. The head injury happened during the full-fledged melee that occurred when said class (about 15, plus my three, came) discovered our cache of Nerf weapons and assorted short swords. It was honestly like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was kind of like that scene at the very beginning of Fellowship of the Rings that explains about the Rings of Power and how that one ring ruled them all, except instead of Sauron and that king who didn’t want to throw the ring away, you had Sam and a bunch of his little cohorts fighting over nothing.

It was AWESOME.

Warrior Sam

I actually took this photo much later in the day, shortly after the kids found the costume chest.

After the head injury (he’s okay), I wanted to calm the party guests down, so I put down a little line of cones, divided them into two teams and started up a few rounds of dodgeball. As you do.

No one got hurt or terribly upset during that whole thing, so I decided to move them on to Red Rover. Remember Red Rover? It wasn’t until kids started wringing their hands, loudly ranking their peers in order of weakness, and a couple of them got clotheslined that I remembered that I totally hated that game when I was a kid.

Regardless, it’s been passed on to a new generation that wasn’t aware of it before. Yay, me!

Fortunately, before I was able to introduce something else brilliant, like throwing knives, the pizza arrived and everyone chilled out and ate some food. Yet, as Red Rover follows dodgeball, cake follows pizza and the chill diminished. It has never happened to me before that I wasn’t able to clear a path to the table for the birthday kid to blow out his candles, but this time I was swarmed, so we had an impromptu standing ceremony.

cake

Sure, we can do it here.

I think that the cake bottleneck happened partly because several kids were watching Mr. Free-fall From Space on the computer between our kitchen and dining room. Don’t forget that this was a party made up of Sam’s overachieving buddies from school. (It seems rude to call children that aren’t mine “nerdlingers.”)

Jack watches a free-fall from space

Don’t get any Xtreme Stuntz ideas, nerdlinger Jack.

I’m not kidding when I say the chill diminished. One girl was actually walking around saying, “Buzz, buzz! I’m buzzing! Buzz, buzz!” It looked a little bit like a spontaneous water fight was going to break out, so I quickly organized the troublemakers into teams for kickball. Not all the kids wanted to play, so Alex had to fill in at second base at one point. Dude. That guy can NOT catch a kickball.

It was embarrassing, really.

(I’m just trying to get you your loveable oaf credibility back, sweetie.)

Things were going pretty well. Sam was super happy, Quinn had run away to sneak time with his DSi…

I SEE YOU, QUINN.

I SEE YOU, QUINN.

…and Jack had departed to his sensory happy place…

Happy, happy, sand, sand, hammer, hammer, rock...

Happy, happy, sand, sand, hammer, hammer, rock…

…when Alex interrupted the kickball game practically mid-pitch to shriek, “HE’S GETTING READY TO JUMP! HE’S GETTING READY TO JUMP!” and 15 scientists-in-training went thundering into the house to watch a guy sit in a capsule for the next 15 minutes. Parents started arriving and I was all, “I swear we haven’t been making them watch this for the full two hours,” but I don’t know how convincing I was considering some of the kids really didn’t want to leave before the dude exited his capsule.

Alex is the HEAD nerdlinger.

Alex is the HEAD nerdlinger.

Oh, and I sent each kid home with his or her very own megaphone. Because I like to SHARE.

SHOUT!

I’m the head jerk.

No matter how hastily tossed together, this party was a blast. Sam has such a good group of kids in his class. And the party was perfectly him. We all had such a great time. Happy birthday, Sam! Thanks for making life so fun!

birthday cat

Glitter cat makes everything awesome.

But Sam makes it awesomer.

Team Stimey and the Plague

You will be happy to hear that my tooth is better and the hydrogen peroxide not only didn’t poison me, but it didn’t taste bad like I was afraid it would. I figure that I’ll start brushing my teeth again in a week or two.

I’m not done with the talk of woe, however. The dog has been gurgling of late. Have I told you this? She’ll be across the room and her stomach will gurgle as if she were a zen fountain sitting right next to you. Only there is nothing calming about it.

I took her to the vet, who prescribed some Pepcid and did bloodwork, which naturally came back with a completely different and far more potentially dangerous problem. Her kidneys were already not doing awesome, and now she evidently has some sort of liver issue. We put her on this bright turquoise pill that she has to take every day to see if it helps.

I figure that the next time she goes into the vet for something mundane like a vaccine, she’ll come out with a spleenectomy.

Then Quinn barfed all over existence on Friday. Really. Everywhere.

I’m hopeful that the contagion has moved through all of Team Stimey and is now firmly ensconced in the family of one of Quinn’s classmates, leaving us safe and healthy.

The thing I can’t quite figure out, however, is why we always get sick at the same time as the dog. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Jack’s Measurable Social Progress Day

I have been struggling a little bit with what to write here lately. I currently have all kinds of angst over…lots of stuff. I miss Susan. Jack is struggling mightily. There are commitments I am torn about keeping or dropping. Things aren’t super awesome.

I keep writing and deleting, writing and deleting, which is an extremely frustrating experience, and one which ultimately results in my writing nothing.

But I’m going to put all that aside for a minute to tell you about Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know I’m late, that all of the half price post-Valentine’s Day chocolate has already been purchased and consumed, but I have some things to say.

Two years ago at Jack’s school Valentine’s Day party, I realized that he didn’t know the names of any of his classmates. I realized that his not knowing this super basic information about his peers was indicative of his lack of real inclusion in his classroom. It knocked me down hard. Ever since, I’ve been very watchful during Valentine’s Day parties to see how he does. I consider the day to be Jack’s Measurable Social Progress Day.

That soldier in the upper left? Jack saluted him for, like, five minutes.

This year during card passing out time, I didn’t help Jack at first. He took a valentine and wandered around looking for the desk of the girl to whom it was addressed. Most of the other kids had passed out half of their cards by the time I finally stepped in and helped him find her desk.

At that point, I realized that he needed help. So I handed him the valentines one at a time and let him search for the kid, but only helped him if he was obviously clueless about who the child was. Jack did really well. It helped that once we were two or three cards in, most of the other kids were done and sitting at their desks so they were easier to find.

He didn’t know everyone’s names, but he knew a lot of them, and the kids were all lovely to Jack. Jack had even written some extra stuff to a couple of the kids on their cards. It’s cool to see him starting to be interested in his classmates.

Part of the jumble of angst I am feeling is stress about Jack’s educational placement and whether he is in the right place. So it is lovely to see that even if he’s having a really tough time (and he is) and even if the social gulf between him and his peers is widening (and it is) that he is able to be part of the class.

Jack also made valentines for all of our pets and set about distributing them after school. I still haven’t found the one he gave to our remaining (child hating) cat, but he didn’t have bleeding scratches when he came back from giving it to her, so I’m not too concerned.

The two remaining mice (geez, our house is kind of depressing these days) were out and about and no doubt enjoyed their valentines tremendously.

“Oh, Jack! But I didn’t get you anything!”

The dog was less excited to get her valentine.

It says “WOOF!”

Then Cassidy reciprocated Jack’s love by giving him a big ol’ sloppy kiss. I really enjoyed watching that.

Jack enjoyed it less.

Oh, right, and I let the rest of my family know that I love them too. (By the way, don’t do your Valentine’s Day shopping at Target ON Valentine’s Day after your family gives you a lovely heart-shaped locket engraved multiple times with the word “Love.” The pink sections of the store were long since picked clean.)

Now all I need is someone to tell me how to get a tiny photograph of all three of my children into a heart-shaped locket. It’s harder than it sounds. I hope you all had a happy Jack’s Measurable Social Progress Day too!

I Wish I Had Something to Say

I was hopeful that I would write a really fun post today, something to get us over the controversy of the playground, but I got nothin’. My kids are in school instead of being at home doing amusing things for your benefit.

Also, Jack falls apart at school every January, which means that school is kind of a shitshow right now. Which is kind of a bummer.

I also have this cyclical, chronic, low-level depression thing going on, but that isn’t a lot of fun to talk about either.

Here is what I DO have:

• You guys, there is this awesome show that I’m sure none of you have ever heard of before, but holy shit, I’ve been watching Breaking Bad on Netflix streaming (*I* still love you, Netflix!) and I am in love. It’s fortunate that I’m not sixteen years behind the trends or anything.

• As if living with other human beings isn’t noisy enough, my dog, who spent the day right next to me, had a near-constant stomach gurgle for several hours today.

• We hired a cleaning service because I am terrible at, you know, house upkeep. However, the stress of avoiding them on the day they come is reaching epic proportions. This is mostly because I feel bratty for being home during the day, but not cleaning. The other six days of the week, however, are spent in sparkly clean joy.

• I had to go see Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. THAT was the longest six years I ever spent in a movie theater. I wrote about that movie in terms of the sacrifices of parenthood over at Patch.com.

• I’m hoping that that link right up there (^) can count as your post for today if this one doesn’t.